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January 9, 2014 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Laverne Cox (activist and actress on Orange Is the New Black, previously) and Carmen Carrera (model and competitor on Season 3 of RuPaul's Drag Race) sat down with Katie Couric to talk about their lives as transgender trailblazers. Couric's questions about genital surgery led Cox to push back and began an outpouring of journalistic advice on the issue. What you shouldn't ask. What Couric could have asked. Can the media stop?
posted by psoas (180 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was so impressed with the poise and grace of these two women in the face of such invasive questions from Couric. I'm really tired of interviewers on television taking a wide-eyed, "Who can imagine such a thing?" stance on issues that have been in the spotlight for so many years now. It was old when Oprah was fake-shocked at gay husbands coming out to their wives, and it's even older now, especially since Couric was supposedly a "real" journalist for quite some time.
posted by xingcat at 10:16 AM on January 9 [22 favorites]


Are there any transcripts of what was said yet? I'd be interested to see the actual breakdown, but can't watch videos right now.
posted by corb at 10:17 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]


I super curious about who Shia LeBoeuf is screwing, I hope Couric asks him during their next interview. Also, how's it hanging, Shia?
posted by GuyZero at 10:27 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


In Katie's world, though, there are fewer boundaries. When you do a colonoscopy for ratings, anything is possible in front of a camera.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:30 AM on January 9 [7 favorites]


Ask not for whom the Boeuf hangs; it hangs for thee

on topic: Cox is amazing
posted by trunk muffins at 10:30 AM on January 9 [4 favorites]


Are there any transcripts of what was said yet? I'd be interested to see the actual breakdown, but can't watch videos right now.

I haven't seen a transcript, corb, but the Autostraddle summary is reasonably detailed (and rehashed in less detail in a Slate piece (not the one linked here) that's been making the rounds).
posted by hoyland at 10:31 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Ask not for whom the Boeuf hangs; it hangs for thee

it better be standing IYKWIM
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:32 AM on January 9


What I kind of like about this story is how there's some implicit "femininity shaming". These transwomen are being more FEMININE and GRACEFUL than Katie Couric, look at their POISE, look how BEAUTIFUL and YOUNG-looking they are.
posted by pmv at 10:37 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


I hope she has to hear "Nice to meet you Katie, what's the deal with your genitals?" from new people she meets for a while, as penance.
posted by doctornecessiter at 10:37 AM on January 9 [52 favorites]


These transwomen are being more FEMININE and GRACEFUL than Katie Couric

But Couric played the "real va-jay-jay" card to put them in their place! Boom!
posted by GuyZero at 10:38 AM on January 9


My understanding is that Shia LeBoeuf is screwing Daniel Clowes.

On topic, I second the motion that Laverne Cox is amazing.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:39 AM on January 9 [21 favorites]


Wow.

Katie Couric is even more of an asshole than I thought.
posted by freakazoid at 10:41 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


"Stop being basic." is the best diss.
posted by dobie at 10:42 AM on January 9 [31 favorites]


I was really uncomfortable with Katie Couric's repeated use of the noun "transgenders" in this video.

Blazecock: To be fair to Couric, her first husband died at a young age from colon cancer. I've never thought that her on-air colonoscopy (and -- to be insufferably factual -- the actual colonoscopy took place off camera) was about her lack of boundaries, it was about feeling a very strong conviction in the value of the segment that overrode the personal boundaries that would usually make a person not want to have diarrhea on national television.
posted by telegraph at 10:43 AM on January 9 [14 favorites]


Katie Couric's repeated use of the noun "transgenders" in this video

Wow. Reminds me of the uncomfortableness I feel when I hear old white people talk about "illegals" as a noun. Super gross way to talk about people.
posted by mathowie at 10:45 AM on January 9 [37 favorites]


Did Couric actually write the questions?
posted by merelyglib at 10:45 AM on January 9


Hope to get famous enough that one day Katie Couric will ask me about the size and shape of my balls.
posted by GrapeApiary at 10:46 AM on January 9 [15 favorites]


To be fair, its Katie Couric. The whole country knows her and thats who she caters to.

Did you really think she was going to talk about cissexism? Its Katie Fucking Couric.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:46 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


I love Laverne Cox so fucking much.

That is all.
posted by Sara C. at 10:48 AM on January 9 [4 favorites]


Loved this bit from the linked Molloy article:
I can’t speak to whether cisgender people tend to go through their days showing each other their downstairs business, but in my life, no, that’s not part of my day-to-day.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:49 AM on January 9 [10 favorites]


I speculate that at least one person employed in the production of Couric's show reasoned "Well, Katie's putting her ass right out there on the show totally puts her in a position to ask about other people's pants parts. ˆ" Because what chance is there this debate didn't happen before airtime?
posted by carsonb at 10:53 AM on January 9


Did Couric actually write the questions?

I'm not sure, but she is one of the last remaining TV news presenters to have at some point had credibility as an actual journalist. And you can't really have it both ways. You can't trot out your Actual Journalist bonafides when it makes you look good and then, when you fuck up, blame it all on the fact that you don't actually do the journalism part of your TV presenting gig.
posted by Sara C. at 10:54 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]


ˆShe's the only one who can do it!
posted by carsonb at 10:55 AM on January 9


Can the media stop?

No, they can't. When dignity is near the bottom on the list of concerns, the notion of someone electing to have their genitals permanently altered is too salacious for a TV journalist to resist.

When the notion of transgender becomes so mundane that the population no longer react to the physical aspects of sexual reassignment with wide eyes, the prying will stop. Until then, it's too easy and rewarding to focus on that and ignore the complex issues around gender.

I don't why anyone's surprised. This is an industry that thinks nothing of approaching the relatives of recently deceased people for reactions. Most journalism is bottom-feeding, and it has been for a very long time.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:55 AM on January 9 [6 favorites]


I think, having followed everything surrounding this, I kind of have a dual reaction; one half is, Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera are my fucking heroines and I was basically fist-pumping at everything they said. The second is my feelings on Couric actually asking The Question are complicated. Like, as a trans woman I goddamned hate being asked about my junk. And while my feelings are irrelevant, the myth of 'the surgery' as be-all-and-end-all is actually harmful, and the disrespect for trans women's boundaries around our bodies gets us touched and groped and outed by 'curious' cis people constantly, which itself can of course be the prelude to worse things.

On the other hand, from my experience it seems pretty much inevitable that a lot of cis people are going to feel the desire to ask, driven by the way they've learned to think about sex and gender. And I'm tempted to say there's greater social value in seeing it asked, followed by seeing the asker sit respectfully and listen while a trans woman explains why it's not an okay question (not to mention there being very visible media commentary on the interview largely focusing on Don't Ask That), than there is in just never addressing it.
posted by emmtee at 10:55 AM on January 9 [45 favorites]


Because what chance is there this debate didn't happen before airtime?

Actually, my money is on this not coming up at all, because most average people who are typically blind to their cis privilege assume that genitalia is the absolute most important part of the trans experience. It would not surprise me in the least to hear that not a single person on Couric's team considered questions about genitalia inappropriate, and in fact that they all assumed this was the most important topic to bring up during the interview.
posted by Sara C. at 10:56 AM on January 9 [8 favorites]


Because what chance is there this debate didn't happen before airtime?

If by "debate" you are suggesting that anyone on her team might have said "hey this is inappropriate" then I think there is a very great chance that this did not, in fact, happen at all.
posted by elizardbits at 10:58 AM on January 9 [7 favorites]


because most average people who are typically blind to their cis privilege assume that genitalia is the absolute most important part of the trans experience.

Sure, but in this specific case we're talking about journalists and producers and directors and writers who sit around thinking up interesting questions to ask the guests on the show.
posted by carsonb at 10:58 AM on January 9


Or is that stuff all really on Couric?
posted by carsonb at 10:58 AM on January 9


But they all know that, for the cis audience watching at home, viewers' number one question is going to be about surgery and genitalia. Which tempts them to ask it and not even question whether such matters are germane/appropriate.

I mean I'm sure everyone involved with the show is 100% awesome as a human being, and they all work very hard and want to do their very best job as journalists.

But this is a particular situation where the viewers' prurient curiosity about transgender people overlaps pretty directly with topics that their interview subjects specifically do not want to talk about. So questions about "oh well is it appropriate to ask about this" go out the window, because The People Want To Know or whatever.

It's sort of like how every time a journalist interviews a magician, they always ask the secrets to a bunch of tricks.
posted by Sara C. at 11:01 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


I would think Couric had nothing to do with the wording/phrasing of the questions. She's just the "Talent". Perhaps she could've approached the issue in a different way. Asked them how they felt about the repeated questions of their junk and had them talk about coming to terms with the fact that for now, there will ALWAYS be people whose first question is, "Oh damn so what happened to your junk?" We're all fascinated and aroused by things we don't know about, especially other people's private parts, no matter WHO they are, haha.
posted by ReeMonster at 11:03 AM on January 9


So questions about "oh well is it appropriate to ask about this" go out the window, because The People Want To Know or whatever.

Pretty much. When a journo says "but The People want to know, The People have a right to know" it never has once in their entire professional lives occurred to them that the individual they are interrogating self-righteously is also The People, an actual person.
posted by elizardbits at 11:05 AM on January 9 [26 favorites]


It would not surprise me in the least to hear that not a single person on Couric's team considered questions about genitalia inappropriate, and in fact that they all assumed this was the most important topic to bring up during the interview.

Attempting to assume good faith, because, you know, that's how we're trying to do stuff and all - I think it's possibly less about thinking it's the most important topic, and more about trying to treat it as a serious situation.

People really familiar with transfolk may be aware that just transitioning is a real and serious thing, that takes a lot of effort - but I've found, for many people - particularly men - the single thing that seems the most serious to them is, in fact, bottom surgery. Particularly for penis-havers, it seems that the idea that someone would be willing to completely remove their penis seems to be like this huge key to "Oh, I don't think they're a man." Probably because of how much, culturally, masculinity is bound up in the penis (I think in a way that is entirely different from women and the vagina), it acts as a flashing red signifier of intent that cannot be reversed, of pure and immutable commitment.

So if you were a journalist trying to let people - particularly random people in the heartlands - know that hey, this is a thing, there are people with this, and they're deadly serious about it, it could seem entirely reasonable to get this out, to demonstrate sincerity.
posted by corb at 11:09 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


But they all know that, for the cis audience watching at home, viewers' number one question is going to be about surgery and genitalia.

So right after leading with "Carmen, the first thing on our viewers' minds has got to be on the transformation of your (fantastic) body..." and give her the opportunity to have her say about the matter. Then VISIT COURIC.NETWORKWEBSITE.IPAD FOR DETAILS ABOUT GENDER TRANSFORMATION SURGERY along the bottom of the screen and they move on to the next issue.

Maybe I expect too much.

Maybe I'm too cynical too, because the only other reason I can think of past this being Couric's decision alone is that it was the number one question so they couldn't avoid it and had to ask Carmen as she was the first guest. They knew Laverne had a fiery eloquent response lined up (damn it was awesome!) too so pressed forward the second time. Such a crappy way to tee that one up though.
posted by carsonb at 11:10 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, from my experience it seems pretty much inevitable that a lot of cis people are going to feel the desire to ask, driven by the way they've learned to think about sex and gender. And I'm tempted to say there's greater social value in seeing it asked, followed by seeing the asker sit respectfully and listen while a trans woman explains why it's not an okay question

Perhaps more accurately than Not An Okay Question would be Not Okay In This Context or Not Okay The Way You Are Asking? I mean, if you're being interviewed because you're trans (or queer or a flautist or whatever) you're going to be asked about details relating to why you're being interviewed; I'm pretty sure both ladies in question knew that was going to come up, because they have had to deal with it so much. Since most people don't actually understand thing one about being trans, you do kind of have to start at the most basic level. For most people, that means wrapping their heads around the surgery first, before dealing with the questions about gender that most people on Mefi already take for granted.

I'm not saying that means there's a free pass on asking about what's in someone's pants. Tone and context and wording really matter. But when you're putting yourself up for public consumption based on something you are or something you do, uncomfortable and/or (borderline?) inappropriate questions may be asked, particularly if you are something of a societal outlier.

Yes, Middle America needs to learn there's a lot more to being trans* than what's between your legs. But they have to understand the Lie To Children before they're going to be able to understand the rather more nuanced issues.

Probably because of how much, culturally, masculinity is bound up in the penis (I think in a way that is entirely different from women and the vagina)

An old friend and I used to joke around that you always hear guys saying shit like "I could play baseball with this thing," and yet you never hear the female equivalent. We couldn't even figure out what it would be. The best we came up with was "Yeah well I could trap a bear in here," which sort of pointed out the absurdity of genital obsession.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:16 AM on January 9 [9 favorites]


Oh, god, yeah, carsonb, that's exactly how it should have gone down. Or some kind of meta-question like, "How do you feel about people constantly wanting to talk about your genitalia?" would have been a good way to bring the conversation in that direction while leaving it up to Carrera and Cox how they wanted to talk about it.

The worst thing is that I'm reading the Autostraddle rundown linked upthread and it is exactly as sordid and "no really we just want to talk about what happened to your penis" as you'd expect. It's totally NOT just a journalist trying to walk a fine line between violating her subjects' boundaries and answering questions the public may have. It's like ALL Katie Couric wanted to talk about was bottom surgery.

Talking to Carmen Carrera about the concrete facts of what transitioning is like makes a degree of sense: it seems like her transition was fairly recent, and she's a former reality TV contestant so it's not like she has a ton of things of substance to talk about. It's clear that the ONLY reason she's on the show is in her capacity as a transperson. But then Laverne Cox comes out, presumably to promote her TV show, and still Couric tries to bring the topic around to bottom surgery. Despite the fact that, I don't know, when did Cox even transition? She's always been in the public eye as a woman, and is not just famous for being transgender but for being one of the breakout stars of a pretty revolutionary TV series.

If I were interviewing Laverne Cox I would want her to talk about her role on the show and maybe contrast that with the reality of transwomen's experience in the prison population. Not what kind of genitals Laverne Cox has.
posted by Sara C. at 11:19 AM on January 9 [4 favorites]


The thing is, genital surgeries are not even the most important part of being trans, or something all trans people do, or something all trans people have the opportunity to do. They're exactly as important as they are for each individual who can and does have them done, but that's it. The primary lens through which the General Public views trans people is through genital surgeries (or, if I'm being honest, The Surgery), but even in contexts where that's "okay" to talk about, it's really not the most important issue facing us as a demographic by far.

Couric asks out of the same naivety that virtually every cis person shaming her also shares (present tense; not past tense) and Cox demonstrates perfectly in her excellent answer that--even if it's not a taboo or rude thing to ask someone randomly in public--that it's not even near the top of the list of things we should be discussing about trans people. Most people really aren't aware of the level of discrimination and threat of violence we face; even our left-leaning allies often assume things can't be as bad as they often really are.

This is a rare example of someone asking a misguided question and being educated articulately and compassionately. To me, as a trans person, it's awesome, full stop. It's something that will bring real awareness of us as human beings to the General Public, and do a little to erase the cartoon image most people have in their head.

Most people in this thread, well intentioned as everyone seems to be, are still hung up on the cartoon image, I think. This is a positive thing for presenting reality to a culture that has only ever thought of us in terms of cartoons.
posted by byanyothername at 11:27 AM on January 9 [39 favorites]


Oh, god, yeah, carsonb, that's exactly how it should have gone down. Or some kind of meta-question like, "How do you feel about people constantly wanting to talk about your genitalia?" would have been a good way to bring the conversation in that direction while leaving it up to Carrera and Cox how they wanted to talk about it.

Yes, absofuckinglutely. The downside--from a 'let's educate people about trans issues' perspective--is that I'd be willing to bet that for a large chunk of Couric's audience, these were probably the first trans people they'd ever (knowingly) seen. So starting with that sort of question--which again I agree would have been the superior way to handle this--could prompt responses that would just fly over a lot of peoples' heads. I'd imagine from the producer's point of view, and Sara C can correct me if I'm being too cynical about producers, they're thinking they're already taking a massive risk by having a couple of nice trans ladies on the show, the risk of alienating the audience by talking over their heads is too much of a risk to take.

That being said, I'd be surprised if there were a lot of nuance or understanding in the room when they were working out what questions to ask.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:28 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Sorry to fire off a messy emotional reply, but I think you guys are missing the point hard. It's not that there are certain things you "should" or "shouldn't" ask a trans person, as much as it's that people tend to have this very unrealistic image of trans people which is where the uncomfortable questions come from. And this is awesome because it's two real live trans people--one of whom is clearly very articulate and knowledgeable about trans rights--explaining what the reality is like, and how framing things in a certain way doesn't even make sense in real life.
posted by byanyothername at 11:31 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


but I think you guys are missing the point hard.

No, not even close. I may not be trans myself, but I am queer, and I know a lot of trans people. I get it.

explaining what the reality is like, and how framing things in a certain way doesn't even make sense in real life.

Which is exactly the difference between 'should' and 'shouldn't.'
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:35 AM on January 9


is that I'd be willing to bet that for a large chunk of Couric's audience, these were probably the first trans people they'd ever (knowingly) seen.

I don't know about that - but I bet they were the first knock-dead gorgeous transwomen they'd seen. And that, in and of itself, I think seems a bit bold, and kind of nice. I feel like (though could be mistaken) talk shows were inviting on transwomen who don't seem to pass very well, so people can lie to themselves and tell themselves that all transwomen are obvious, and they'd never be taken in, and they're better than them, and all the other lies people love to tell themselves. These ladies are gorgeous. I will willingly admit they are both prettier than I am, and I'd be willing to bet prettier than most viewers of the show. Thus, in some (not all, but enough) men's mind, it becomes a threat, because they can't tell themselves "I'd never go for it" because of course they would because they are so f'ing pretty. And in some women's minds it becomes a threat because "holy shit they are gorgeous, I can't feel superior to them, they look better than me."
posted by corb at 11:35 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


I suspect in more minds of the kind you're describing that'll turn into "that dude looks so much like a girl, who the fuck does he think he is trying to trick me" and "she's wearing too much makeup and she'll never be a real woman like I am," minor variants of both of which I have heard more than once, both specifically relating to whatsername in the Miss Universe pageant.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:39 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


One wonders if Couric would have asked a trans man about his genitals.

I really love Laverne Cox, and both women handled Couric perfectly, and I'm sure that this has helped some little kid out there realize they aren't weird and alone, and I'm glad for that, but it still sucks that all of the trans spokespeople who get exposure are conventionally attractive (in this case one is a model!) and presumably don't get misgendered in their daily life like I still sometimes do. It's frustrating because it feels like it's setting up two boxes for uneducated viewers - one for "normal" trans people who are non-threatening and inhabit the same media spaces as their favorite daytime television cis people, and one for me and my bunch.

On preview I see that corb brought this up from a different direction.
posted by Corinth at 11:39 AM on January 9 [5 favorites]


This is a rare example of someone asking a misguided question and being educated articulately and compassionately. To me, as a trans person, it's awesome, full stop. It's something that will bring real awareness of us as human beings to the General Public, and do a little to erase the cartoon image most people have in their head.

It is pretty great to have a bit of uproar in Couric's venue to pivot into greater public awareness.
posted by carsonb at 11:39 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


(and yes the gender pronouns I used there were deliberate, they weren't trying to insult any trans people)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:40 AM on January 9


I think literally the only thing that makes it even a halfway appropriate topic to raise at all is that some alchemy of the way cis people are taught to internalise gender role and sex seems to produce a looping chant in the back of some folks' minds as soon as they know they're talking to a trans woman.

whataboutyourpeniswhataboutyourpeniswhataboutyourpeniswhataboutyourpenis

And if you intend to present anything about trans women to a super-normative audience then that's something that you probably are going to do more good by addressing than not, ideally carefully and respectfully, but doing it as crudely as Couric, or simply telling them flat-out Don't Ever Ask And Here's Why is probably better than nothing, because the curiosity loop really does appear to drown out anything else a trans person might say until it's fulfilled one way or another.

Focusing on it other than an obligatory talking-to-the-mainstream nod is kind of like interviewing a cis gay musician on daytime TV and asking 'now, the one answer I'm sure everyone wants: does it really go in the butt? Does it really all go in the butt? Where poo comes from? Tell me all about your butt and penis and putting penis in the butt.' It's like, ask about his work, ask about his relationship, ask about his wedding, ask about his experience of homophobia or even his coming out. Ask trans women about their lives.

Personally I would just dearly love if a reasonable proportion of cis acquaintances (there is broad demographic appeal, apparently) with whom I choose to share that I'm trans, in the future, would not take that as an invitation to grab my crotch at some point. LIKE I AM WEARING SO MUCH UNDERWEAR I COULD HAVE A HANDGUN DOWN THERE AND YOU WOULDN'T KNOW BUT IT'S STILL NOT OK.
posted by emmtee at 11:43 AM on January 9 [22 favorites]


I feel like (though could be mistaken) talk shows were inviting on transwomen who don't seem to pass very well, so people can lie to themselves and tell themselves that all transwomen are obvious

I think another thing is that, until the last few years, most people's awareness of transgendered people is in the context of something like Jerry Springer or a tabloid, where the goal is to find people who Look Trans and highlight the weirdness of it.
posted by Sara C. at 11:44 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Personally I would just dearly love if a reasonable proportion of cis acquaintances (there is broad demographic appeal, apparently) with whom I choose to share that I'm trans, in the future, would not take that as an invitation to grab my crotch at some point

...please tell me this is not an actual goddamned thing that happens on the regular, because I need to know exactly how much to cry in my humanity-weeping beer and would like it to be at least more beer than tears.
posted by corb at 11:45 AM on January 9 [14 favorites]


it is an actual goddamned thing that happens on the regular.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:47 AM on January 9 [8 favorites]


does it really go in the butt? Does it really all go in the butt? Where poo comes from? Tell me all about your butt and penis and putting penis in the butt.

I've been watching Stephen Fry's new documentary series about homophobia, and so far it's pretty much him traveling around the world and having different homophobes rant at him "BUT YOU PUT IT IN THE BUTTTTTTTTTTTTT", and then he delivers some pretty awesome takedowns that even I, as a queer lady, had not thought about before.

Pretty sure Stephen Fry and Laverne Cox could take over the world.
posted by Sara C. at 11:48 AM on January 9 [21 favorites]


...please tell me this is not an actual goddamned thing that happens on the regular, because I need to know exactly how much to cry in my humanity-weeping beer and would like it to be at least more beer than tears.

seconded. But I do know two trans men who get the investigative crotch grab pretty often, so my beer is pretty watered down already.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:48 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Pretty sure Stephen Fry and Laverne Cox could take over the world.

YES. THIS. and the world would henceforth be unrecognizable in the best way.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:49 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]


to some...it would make all the sense in the world to me ;-)
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:50 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Personally I would just dearly love if a reasonable proportion of cis acquaintances (there is broad demographic appeal, apparently) with whom I choose to share that I'm trans, in the future, would not take that as an invitation to grab my crotch at some point

what. people do this? were they raised by wolves or are they just thinking Crocodile Dundee is a reasonable way to live? either way, ugggggggggggggggggggggggh.

seconded. But I do know two trans men who get the investigative crotch grab pretty often, so my beer is pretty watered down already.

WHAT? this really does happen? The only trans (or indeed any other) crotches I grab are ones which I have been invited to grab for naked sexytimes. The idea that an adult human will walk around and casually sexually assault people out of motherfucking curiosity aahoiuhr0481p9y-n983ytp9c8hm5pgtoiwjixoj[ijg
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:51 AM on January 9 [11 favorites]


Oh it would make sense, it's just that every day I would wake up and think, "oh dear, I seem to still be trapped inside my own mind. NO WAIT, this is the actual world now."
posted by like_a_friend at 11:51 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


I have responded to similar questions with "And how are your genitals doing today?" About 20% of the time people laugh. About half of the time they kinda get shocked into understanding what they have just asked. And the rest of the time I regret saying it because they either are hurt or think I am asking to sleep with them.

*shrug*

No, sweetie, I'm not asking to sleep with you.
posted by andreaazure at 11:53 AM on January 9 [15 favorites]


An old friend and I used to joke around that you always hear guys saying shit like "I could play baseball with this thing," and yet you never hear the female equivalent. We couldn't even figure out what it would be. The best we came up with was "Yeah well I could trap a bear in here," which sort of pointed out the absurdity of genital obsession.

That's called a Lucy Mancini

seconded. But I do know two trans men who get the investigative crotch grab pretty often, so my beer is pretty watered down already.


That's the Crocodile Dundee test
posted by GrapeApiary at 11:53 AM on January 9


laverne cox was so wonderful in her responses. she is absolutely my possibility model from now on. i was also so glad that she was there with carmen carrera, who is awesome in her own right - but i think katie couric straight up embarrassed carmen and that bright spark she radiates dimmed just a bit when with (what i read as) shock she responded that she was there to talk about her magazine cover and modeling work. and then laverne cox came out and modeled instantly how much she supports carmen and how proud of her she was. and then she handled katie couric expertly. i loved being able to watch two famous trans women support each other and maybe in a small way protect each other in that moment. i might be explaining this badly - but i've watched it a couple times now and i just keep getting chills all the way through.
posted by nadawi at 11:53 AM on January 9 [13 favorites]


Actually, my money is on this not coming up at all, because most average people who are typically blind to their cis privilege assume that genitalia is the absolute most important part of the trans experience.

I'm always kinda surprised by the number of people who think that transition means basically walking into a hospital as a man and leaving as a woman. (I would say "or vice versa" but let's be real, the people I'm talking about barely remember that trans men exist.) So I think the idea is something like "when you underwent the complete and immediate change into a lady, did you choose to include a vagina in there or not?" with the implicit "because if the answer is no, you're still really a man."
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:53 AM on January 9 [8 favorites]


my immediate reaction after carrera's interview, before laverne cox got on stage, was that i would be tempted to respond with things like "how big is your labia? is your clit hooded or is the hood mostly retracted? are you a squirter? what exact design is your bush waxed to - how often do you get that done - does it hurt - explain to the audience exactly how it feels when you get aroused..." because, yeah, in that moment i felt like the only way to combat that stupidity was to straight up turn the tables on these types of questions. of course, then laverne cox showed a different way forward - but in bars and the like, i still think the turn around is quickest method sometimes.
posted by nadawi at 11:58 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


The idea that an adult human will walk around and casually sexually assault people out of motherfucking curiosity aahoiuhr0481p9y-n983ytp9c8hm5pgtoiwjixoj[ijg

Yeah, I am one hundred percent not trying to deny experiences, I'm just full of the incoherent screaming in the head of what the holy fuck what? My deepest ragepathies (it's like sympathy, but with more anger at the perp) to those who have actually had this happen to them.
posted by corb at 12:01 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


It's a shame Stephen Fry has a history of rank transmisogyny, really (and that's not the only instance, his Twitter has been ripe on occasion).

Re: groping, yeah, obviously the frequency varies by the specific people you're around (I've been out to groups of people who were great, I've been out to people who were awful in other ways, and I'm kind of hesitant to say it but personally I've had it come from cis women most often) but it's something a lot of trans women talk in trans-specific spaces about having happened, and I believe it's strongly linked with these attitudes that treat trans bodies as a kind of public domain curiosity. As if being trans is all about the genitals, so by being visibly trans you're offering them for display and discussion. I'm lucky in that I'm only really vulnerable to it when I choose to be out these days, which is decreasingly often, but as when I presented myself (or if you have no choice in presenting yourself) as a visibly transfeminine agender/genderqueer person, or a non-'passing' trans woman, it'll probably happen
posted by emmtee at 12:03 PM on January 9 [6 favorites]


[folks, try to dial it back a bit, remember not to focus comments on other people but the links being discussed in the original thread.]
posted by mathowie at 12:21 PM on January 9


It's a shame Stephen Fry has a history of rank transmisogyny, really (and that's not the only instance, his Twitter has been ripe on occasion).

Yes, I'm aware of this. There's even a little cringeworthy, well, I don't want to say transphobia or transmisogyny, in one of the documentary episodes I've seen, but somebody somewhere involved with the production has very confused ideas about what transgender actually is. Fry himself seems respectful and generous in a not-really-getting-it sort of way in that segment (and I have to say he comes off a million billion times better than Katie Couric in this FPP), but I feel like a better producer, writer, director, WHOEVER really should have stepped in to make sure they were telling the story as sensitively as possible.

FWIW I don't think Stephen Fry specifically hates transgender people, I just think he's got his own blind spots just like anyone else. He's really ripe for some of the sort of education feckless fecal fear mongering describes. Whereas I think somebody like Katie Couric is mostly hopeless.
posted by Sara C. at 12:24 PM on January 9


Also QI handles all matters of gender HORRIBLY (seriously do not even watch the episode in series G titled "Gender"), and I'm pretty sure it happens on levels that have nothing to do with Fry. I mean, I wish he were a better ally for women and transpeople, but I don't think "appears on show with problematic ideas about gender" can really be equated with "is transphobic".
posted by Sara C. at 12:26 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


I don't think that's what's happening at all. I think byanyothername made a statement about why she thinks this is a good thing, using 'you guys,' and you assumed 'you guys' meant you and that she was attacking you by saying so.

If you could show me how saying 'you guys' isn't aimed at everyone, I'd be very interested.

FWIW I don't think Stephen Fry specifically hates transgender people, I just think he's got his own blind spots just like anyone else. He's really ripe for some of the sort of education feckless fecal fear mongering describes. Whereas I think somebody like Katie Couric is mostly hopeless.

I think he does have his blind spots, and I adore the man, but I think part of the problem with him is that we see this out, proud, queer renaissance man... and forget how old he is. Trans issues have never been such a part of the zeitgeist as they are now, and he simply wouldn't have had information in his toolkit; he was too busy living a terribly tortured life as a closeted queer man. He's learning. And I don't think Couric is hopeless at all--remember, she's the one who finally outed Palin as a total fucking moron on (inter)national TV, after all.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:30 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Cox was awesome, and I agree with everybody that asking "the question" about surgery and genitals is super horrible, but Couric didn't asked "the question." She asked, "why is it asking 'the question' bad?" There might an argument that this question is bad in itself, but why is everybody saying that she asked "the question"? The difference is not even subtil.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 12:38 PM on January 9


i think it's worth noting that fry doesn't just exhibit trans-misogyny but also all around misogyny at times. i do agree that it's a blind spot and i'm not looking to tar and feather him - but age or no, at this point he has all the privilege to avail himself of these blunders and he seems to keep sticking his foot in it. i think that he's learning and growing and is very upfront about being an imperfect sort. it just seems fair to bring it up if we're in a thread about trans issues and someone suggests that he should be some sort of shining light - because, yeah, not on this topic at the very least.
posted by nadawi at 12:40 PM on January 9 [10 favorites]


TheGoodBlood - seems you missed the first interview - couric asked carrera the question, carrera was all, nope not answering that and you're rude for asking (but in a way more respectful way) and then cox came out and couric asked why the question was upsetting, which is when cox expertly launched into why it was offensive.
posted by nadawi at 12:42 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


Oh I see nadawi, I totally missed that. Thanks.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 12:44 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


I think trans awareness absolutely is a generational thing, which is another reason I find this particular interview so compelling. I mean, in the US right now you've got:

- Elderly people who just have no idea what trans* even is

- Older people who know that this is something that exists but are really still in the tabloid "SEX CHANGE !!!!!!!" mindset.

- Middle-Aged people (in the vein of someone like Stephen Fry or Katie Couric) who think they get it, but are transphobic largely via ignorance. I think this covers people who need some education on the subject and people who are hopeless, probably depending where exactly they are in the world of gender and sexuality and being aware of all LGBTI conventions.

- Younger people who get it, for various degrees of "get it".

So I can see it being difficult to figure out how to approach an interview like this for a mainstream show that has to appeal to all those demographics, within with there are all kinds of permutations of how much people actually know about the subject and how likely they are to be open to thinking about it in new ways.

But still, they REALLY fell down on the job here.
posted by Sara C. at 12:51 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


all around misogyny

I don't know, I mean, really? More than any other dude? He's always come off to me as someone who has a lot of privilege that he's never really questioned. Not really specifically as a misogynist, or at least not on the level where I'd bother to use such a loaded word.

I think he gets a bad rap because he is SO AWESOME that you forget he's also a person with flaws and ignorance and blind spots.

Like, his big "misogynist" moment is that he implied in an offhand manner once in an interview that women generally don't really like sex that much. Which is a common trope of the society we live in, and not really something he would be in a position to know the truth about.
posted by Sara C. at 12:58 PM on January 9


I think trans awareness absolutely is a generational thing

I had an odd conversation with someone a year younger than me at the gym the other day. Somehow we got to talking about gender, and this person said something about a new law in California where kids in school will be allowed to use the bathroom of their chosen gender, and I said that sounds really respectful and a step in the right direction and this guy just kind of flipped out about how awful the idea was, and I just sort of chalked it up to maybe not thinking through the issues yet or just being part of an over-40 generation that might not get it anytime soon.
posted by mathowie at 1:00 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


i wasn't saying he's a boogey man misogynist - just that his casual misogyny isn't solely directed at trans women. again - i clearly said i thought it was mostly a blind spot for him. i'm not calling him a pua fedora wearing mra or anything. i don't think it's loaded to call out misogyny where it exists. i don't think something as to rise to any specific level to use the word that describes the prejudices that he's happy to flaunt in interviews, his own writings, and shows he puts his name on. were this another conversation about another topic, i think it would also be fair to say he's kind of classist and blind to struggles of lower classes - which is not me calling him the guy on the monopoly box. i still love stephen fry and he's one of my favorite celebrities. i hope he continues to grow and learn.
posted by nadawi at 1:04 PM on January 9


That person and the rest of the Prop 8 coalition are working pretty hard to yank that out from under us.
posted by Corinth at 1:05 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


and, his quote was:

"I feel sorry for straight men. The only reason women will have sex with them is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want," he said. "Of course, a lot of women will deny this and say, 'Oh no, but I love sex, I love it!' But do they go around having it the way that gay men do?"

which to me goes beyond sort of implying in an offhand manner. but again, i still love him in a lot of ways. i'm just not giving him a pass on that because i agree with him on a bunch of topics.
posted by nadawi at 1:14 PM on January 9 [8 favorites]


Wow, Laverne Cox was so freaking on point. You could tell Katie was a little abashed at the end because she knew she had just been taken to school in the most generous and warm way possible. Bravo.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:17 PM on January 9 [11 favorites]


"But do they go around having it the way that gay men do?"

Oh you sweet summer child, whatever question it is that you are actually asking, I assure you the answer is an enthusiastic YES.
posted by elizardbits at 1:22 PM on January 9 [21 favorites]


Oh you sweet summer child, whatever question it is that you are actually asking, I assure you the answer is an enthusiastic YES.

This reminds me of how my friend's dad said something like "well, women don't REALLY like sex" and she and I just sort of looked at each other like "how do we disabuse him of this notion without being like 'yes, your early-20s daughter and I actually LOVE sex! Can't get enough of it! Horny as gophers!'" and I think we wound up using one of our other friends as an example of a woman who enjoys sex (sorry Chris we were cornered) and at the end of the conversation, he told us, with genuine gratitude in his voice, "you two have given me a lot to think about!"

Did I mention that her mom was also in the room the entire time because she was. Kept pretty quiet though!
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:27 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


I feel sort of responsible for this derail so I just want to say:

LAVERNE COX YALL
posted by Sara C. at 1:28 PM on January 9 [7 favorites]


> But they all know that, for the cis audience watching at home, viewers' number one question
> is going to be about surgery and genitalia. Which tempts them to ask it and not even
> question whether such matters are germane/appropriate.

That these are the days of Ask Me Anything does not exactly help train people to reflect in advance on what they possibly should not ask.
posted by jfuller at 1:29 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


I am actually kind of glad that Couric continued the discussion the way she did, asking Cox if people were preoccupied with the genetalia question, because it gave Cox a great jumping off point to explain why this is an inappropriate question, no matter how curious some people might be, and what they should really be discussing.

Both of these women, Cox and Carrera, handled themselves so graciously, it was a pleasure to watch them. I don't watch OitNB, but I did watch Carmen's season of RuPaul, and she has really developed into a great spokesperson and model. Good for her! Good for them both!

Hopefully, Couric, and many other people who have seen these interviews, have come away with a better understanding of the challenges faced by the trans community and how they can remove some of those challenges by being a little less curious about genetalia and a little more curious about the person attached.
posted by blurker at 2:59 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


blurker: If you have any interest, you could watch just Cox's episode of OitNB (each episode focuses on a different character's story). It's the third episode. Apparently it's one of the best/most honest on-screen depictions of a trans person so far.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:02 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


There are also a few episodes later in the season that tell a little more of her backstory, IIRC. But the episode showbiz_liz recommends is so fantastic that there's a strong chance you'll fall in love with the show and won't need anyone to pick out episodes with Sophia subplots. It was pretty much that episode and an early episode tracking Kate Mulgrew's character's backstory that sold me on the show.
posted by Sara C. at 3:08 PM on January 9


As if being trans is all about the genitals, so by being visibly trans you're offering them for display and discussion.

This has not been my experience at all. Nobody has grabbed my crotch (without consent!) at any point, and people are generally pretty good about not asking about surgery and things. I guess I live in a good area or something.
posted by Dysk at 3:36 PM on January 9


- Elderly people who just have no idea what trans* even is

- Older people who know that this is something that exists but are really still in the tabloid "SEX CHANGE !!!!!!!" mindset.


I think you're selling older people short. People of my grandad's generation (my grandad was born in 1930 and presumably counts as elderly at this point) are aware trans people exist (keep in mind Christine Jorgensen's transition was very public in the 1950s*), but unless they know a trans person, probably haven't really thought about it much in decades. But there seems to be a recurring theme in my life of elderly people being fairly chill about queerness. They don't necessarily 'get' it, but if they don't, they're aware that they don't get it and leave it at that. I sort of assume that it's just so far down the list of things that have changed in their lifetimes that they're not going to worry about it. This is certainly true of my grandad and trans issues, but he could still pull off this interview without mentioning genitals.*

*Well, the thought of him trying to conduct any interview is fairly hilarious. He can't really understand Americans, either, so it would be farce, but a farce without talking about genitals.
posted by hoyland at 4:06 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


Is Couric very small? Because she seems normally-proportioned relative to the studio furniture, but she is tiny compared to her interviewees. Unless they're really huge? But if she's itty-bitty, do they make teensy-weensy chairs so she'll look normal?

Looking at the photos is making my eyes hurt, pls hope.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:19 PM on January 9


FWIW I wasn't really talking about transphobia or outright hatred of transpeople. Just that this is something that seems very much to be a generational issue.

I'm 30 and I've been exposed to transgendered people by learning about trans* issues in college courses and queer activism, knowing transpeople in my everyday life, and otherwise experiencing it as a completely usual thing.

While it wouldn't surprise me to find out that my grandparents are OK with the idea of transgendered people in theory, I'm fairly certain that it's not just like a total non-issue to them. They probably don't know anyone who is openly transgendered. An interview like the one in this FPP would fly way over their heads to the point of, as you say, "so far down the list of things that have changed in their lifetimes that they're not going to worry about it."

Meanwhile of course there are piles and piles of young people who are worried about who uses what bathroom. There are always going to be bigots.
posted by Sara C. at 4:22 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Katie Couric and height: I think she's petite but don't know specifically how petite.

Based on what I know about art direction for shows like this, yes, to an extent furniture choices are made with the height/size of the host in mind. You don't want it to look like the Edith Ann show.

My guess based on OITNB is that Laverne Cox is very tall. I don't know anything about Carmen Carrera, but she's a model, right? So probably tall.
posted by Sara C. at 4:25 PM on January 9


According to Google, Katie Couric is 5'1".
posted by purple_bird at 4:33 PM on January 9


this page says couric is 5'4 (and includes a hilarious picture with tyra banks), but the rest of the internet suggests that she's 5'1 or 5'2. carmen carrera is listed as 5'10, not sure about laverne cox, but i'd guess her to be 1-3 inches taller than carrera.
posted by nadawi at 4:34 PM on January 9


Now I'm wondering about other TV people I've seen next to Couric. I guess it's like in Willy Wonka, the smaller you are the easier it is to shrink you down for transmission. Sorry for the derail.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:50 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Funny enough, crouch grabbing happened in my early 20's before I knew I was trans but everyone thought I was gay. Crotch grabbing was used against me a way to reinforce that I was a man, because I acted effeminate.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:51 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


A lot of actors are short.

Which is probably why I pegged Cox as "very tall" when, at ~6 feet, she's tall, but not out of the range of normal (I'd have guessed more like 6"4'). But she towers over the rest of the OITNB cast. Because a lot of actors are short.
posted by Sara C. at 5:08 PM on January 9


I've decided I'm just going to start asking everyone I meet if they still have their junk. If it's good enough for Katie Couric...
posted by NedKoppel at 5:21 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Those questions were in the pre-interview. No one was sandbagged. No one was surprised.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:06 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Sure. And of course these women weren't born yesterday and (especially in the case of Cox who made the press junket rounds last year when OITNB premiered) know what kinds of dumbass questions to expect when being interviewed by the mainstream media.

But still. Do we really have to be this shitty to transpeople?
posted by Sara C. at 6:13 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


What kind of national journalist doesn't do enough research or have staff that do enough research to know that you DON'T just blurt out questions about pre/post-op status to a transwoman?

We can't expect Couric to ask anybody else about their genitals, but it would be great if some ally celeb showed up on her show soon and said to her: "So, you asked Carmen Carrera about her private parts the other day, is there anything you'd like to know about mine?"

Kudo's to Carrera for dealing with it so perfectly in an on the spot situation. I don't doubt that of course she has learned to do so through extensive experience, but this is super high stakes live TV, and she was awesome.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 8:08 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


What kind of national journalist doesn't do enough research or have staff that do enough research to know that you DON'T just blurt out questions about pre/post-op status to a transwoman?

Back when Larry King was on, he did the most cringeworthy interview with trans guests I've ever seen. Not only was it questions about genitals for everyone, he didn't bother finding out his guests' genders in advance! So it was "What have you got in your pants and how do you feel about it?" (Because obviously all trans people desire genital surgery.)

PSA (for everyone): Spaces in 'trans woman', 'trans people' and so on, please. Also 'transgender' (as an adjective only!) rather than 'transgendered'.
posted by hoyland at 8:15 PM on January 9 [7 favorites]


PSA (for the everyone): Spaces in 'trans woman', 'trans people' and so on, please. Also 'transgender' (as an adjective only!) rather than 'transgendered'.

Sorry, thanks for the correction. Duly noted. (I've got a lot of german blood. We like compound words. I type eachother all the time.)

Honest question: is that just a convention or is there a philosophical/ideological rationale for the space? Is it because it agrees with the convention of gay man as opposed to gayman?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 8:20 PM on January 9


It's to emphasize that that a trans person is a person modified by an adjective, not a completely separate thing.
posted by Corinth at 8:25 PM on January 9 [29 favorites]


Gotcha. Thanks.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 8:30 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


If anyone wants a heartwarming older person data point, I came out to my grandmother before my parents. I knew she would be accepting and I didn't want my dad to worry about what she would think, so I took it off the table. She is in her mid 80s and seems to love me even more than before, if that is at all possible. She's Irish Catholic, but more in the nuns-doing-good-work vein than the these-nuns-are-not-toeing-our-line-on-social-issues-let's-appoint-men-to-oversee-them vein.
posted by Corinth at 8:30 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


That is a very interesting point, and underscores what I was saying above about Stephen "You are so not my type but I would fuck you into the ground" Fry: not more than a few years ago I remember seeing 'transmen' and 'transwomen' (in various conjugations that was not a pun I mean grammatically), and now that's not okay. That's cool, and I will happily amend my language as needed, but I think a lot of people outside the trans-aware leftist bubble don't get that these are such fast-moving issues. They're still grappling with "Holy shit he cut off his dick" (please ignore the problematic gendering) and aren't even ready for "Holy shit she cut off her tits but she still has a vagina and calls herself a boy" (same deal with pronouns) let alone "Let's be careful about our orthography."

I'm a leftist, I don't pretend otherwise, but sometimes our insistence on seemingly-precious details can sometimes... well, forest, trees.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:34 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


I think a lot of people outside the trans-aware leftist bubble don't get that these are such fast-moving issues.

As a well meaning left leaning person, I think it's fair that I get a little slack for not getting it just right, and Hoyland was totally cool and matter of fact about correcting me.

That said, for journalists and authors dealing with LGBT issues, there is a thing called the GLAAD Media Reference Guide, and if it's your job, you ought to check it periodically.

(actually, I don't see transman/transwoman vs. trans man/trans woman in there, somebody oughta tell them, unless it's be being blind and missing it.)
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 8:40 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


not more than a few years ago I remember seeing 'transmen' and 'transwomen' (in various conjugations that was not a pun I mean grammatically), and now that's not okay.

I'm sure you could find people who stridently believe in no space being the correct option. (I do think the space faction is winning.) In a space that's educated on trans issues, I don't think it much matters.* But somewhere like Metafilter, where there are a lot of people without much vocabulary or education on the issue, I think it's useful to poke people about the space to drive home Corinth's point about trans people being a variety of people, rather than some other category. Now, if I was a bit more on top of things, I would have rolled Corinth's comment into my little PSA, but it's late and I'm a bit tired.

(Actually, it occurs to me that no one ever writes 'cispeople'. That alone is enough for me to demand a space.)

*Though I'm sure at least once in my life, I'll be in a meeting where a significant amount of time is devoted to this issue and I will have a very strong opinion.
posted by hoyland at 9:02 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


Actually, back to that Larry King interview, I just remembered it was so bad it was mocked on Saturday Night Live. I have to imagine it's the only time SNL has ever made fun of anyone for treating trans people badly.
posted by hoyland at 9:05 PM on January 9


I've been known to write cisdude about myself. Also, interestingly, I tend to go with straight, white cis in that order. Sometimes white, straight, cis. But always cis last. Am I subconsciously saying something? Again, honest question here, looking for feedback.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 9:06 PM on January 9


not more than a few years ago I remember seeing 'transmen' and 'transwomen' (in various conjugations that was not a pun I mean grammatically), and now that's not okay.

Yeah, this is something I have witnessed changing over the course of a few years, and while I think it's fine to share the "pssssst, new orthorgraphy guys!" info, I think it's sort of shitty to make passive aggressive value judgments out of it.

Trans* issues are still an area of activism that is evolving and mostly people who are not using fucked up terms like t----y or transsexual or whatever are operating in good faith even when we fuck up a space or an asterisk or whatever.
posted by Sara C. at 9:10 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Asterisk?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 9:13 PM on January 9


here is a good sum up of the asterisk
posted by nadawi at 9:18 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


So does that mean we shouldn't gently inform people what we prefer to be called? I don't see any bad faith anything related to this derail at all!

(It's also probably worth noting that only recently have trans people begun to have more of a hand in our own terminology and the media's portrayal of us, so references to how things used to be are probably more representative of what cis people wanted rather than what we wanted. We aren't capriciously pulling your strings, we're just trying to undo a lot of crap that was forced on us, I promise!)
posted by Corinth at 9:18 PM on January 9 [8 favorites]


I don't see any bad faith anything related to this derail at all!

Me neither, and given that the thread is about Katie Couric messing this up, is it even a derail?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 9:20 PM on January 9


We should probably kill the language derail (I will contribute by going to bed after this comment) as thinking about ourselves instead of contributing to society, but I think it's the whole trans- and cis- are prefixes issue, which is kind of a hole in the argument in favour of a space. But the 'cis' or 'trans' coming right before gender thing is maybe some sort of combination of having a prefix and sorting by increasingly fewer alternatives. If that makes any sense.

mostly people who are not using fucked up terms like t----y or transsexual or whatever are operating in good faith

I want to pull you up on this. There's a lot of shit attempts at trans allyship out there, where people feel like using the right pronouns (even if they're internally rolling their eyes) or not using slurs* is being an ally and it's simply not. One needs to be thinking critically about one's actions and what impact they have on society. Whether we're focusing on making ourselves feel better or on actually improving the world, and so on. I'd go so far to say you can be operating in good faith using really terrible language, as long as you stop when it's pointed out and don't moan about it.

*Though there are big complications around casting 'transsexual' as a slur.

Asterisk?

There's a whole 'trans' vs 'trans*' as a generic umbrella thing, where different communities are moving in different directions (e.g. I'm seeing the asterisk appearing, rather than disappearing, but others have the opposite perception). The asterisk is supposed to be the unix wildcard.
posted by hoyland at 9:20 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Good grief, I'm less coherent than I think I am when I'm tired. In retrospect, on groping, I'd modify 'a reasonable proportion of cis acquaintances' to 'a small proportion...'. It's not happening ten times a day. But it truly is something that's recurred through my life and it's definitely a factor in my disclosing to far fewer people these days than when I was presenting as an out-and-proud transfeminine whoever.

I probably wouldn't have mentioned it at all if I hadn't recently been part of a conversation between a bunch of trans women I don't know well, many of whom spontaneously brought up that it's happened to them. It's dependent on social circle and environment, and I could make some guesses about the sort of attitude and outlook that tend to drive it, but that would be kind of an unfair thing to do based on only my particular experiences, so I won't.

Re: Fry, my criticism is that he sat there on a BBC show with a nationwide audience, laughing about and uncritically endorsing the myth of the deceptive trans woman out to trick straight cis men into 'gay' attraction and sex. That's a myth and fear which literally gets trans women murdered, especially trans women of colour. It's hardly that he didn't put a space in 'trans women' or used 'transgender' as a noun.

I have a well of patience for people who misuse terminology with obviously good intentions so deep that you could live a full and happy life waiting for the ghost to crawl out of it post video night, but I'm way past the end of my tether with resistance to polite correction and with the persistent grumpy response (which I'm not accusing anyone of raising in this thread, but which shows up on Mefi regularly and is an interesting subject in itself) that trans terminology is some impenetrable, ever-changing excuse for us to nitpick about spaces and asterisks, available only to an educated 'leftist' elite.

The forest is the trees. We're trying to represent ourselves accurately and equally in languages with structures and histories which, in many cases, carry implicit bias in their sex and gender categorisation and make even basic description of trans selves and experiences difficult. There aren't words for things, and many of the words which do exist harm us. It's incredibly easy to slip off that very narrow path and end up accidentally reinforcing damaging and inaccurate positions through language - even about ourselves - and when that happens we need to correct it.

People often scoff at the idea of fighting for recognition of a space, but the ideological distance between language presenting 'man, woman, transwoman, transman' as four discrete categories, and 'trans' as a subcategory of woman or man like short, strong, happy and so on, is significant. More significant, I think, than the things some would like to believe should be.
posted by emmtee at 9:48 PM on January 9 [9 favorites]


I tend to go with straight, white cis in that order. Sometimes white, straight, cis. But always cis last. Am I subconsciously saying something?

I think you're going with the order that things have become Things To Discuss in society. I'd venture to say that 'straight' is the first thing that's come up in my lifetime as something to question one's attitudes about; cf 'heteronormativity.' Followed by race--the USA is a bit behind there, but there's a relatively unique history that probably explains that. 'Cis' is very very new.

In retrospect, on groping, I'd modify 'a reasonable proportion of cis acquaintances' to 'a small proportion...'. It's not happening ten times a day.

Doesn't matter if it's once ever. It's still sexual assault, and I would like to be full of hubris and say on behalf of cis people, sorry. Not okay. Not even remotely acceptable to anybody at all ever.

The forest is the trees

Well, no. When you're trying to get people to wrap their brains around a really alien (to them) concept, trees and forests are different things. There are excellent arguments to be made for delineating forests or trees first, and I personally don't know where I come down there. But it doesn't matter where I come down, it matters where the people who are demanding their rights arrive. If they want to start with trees, my duty (wholeheartedly embraced) is to do what I can to help everyone else understand what trees are. My personal feeling is it's better, I think maybe, to start with forests first and get everyone understanding what they are before drilling down to more nuanced concepts. But, again, I am not a trans person and have zero right to dictate to anyone who is how you wish to demand the rights due to you as a human being.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:00 PM on January 9


So does that mean we shouldn't gently inform people what we prefer to be called?

No, that's the exact opposite of what I said. (Though tbh I think it's worth noting that there's no discussion here about what trans people prefer to be called, the discussion is about hitting the space bar.)

I just think it's irritating when people are snotty about it. Which, OK, I'll come out and say that I thought Hoyland sort of was. If Hoyland meant nothing by it except to just inform people of what 2014's preferred orthography is, that's perfectly OK, and I take it all back with apologies.
posted by Sara C. at 10:04 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


oh and to throw a wrench in the nomenclature decision I have friends who are totally okay with the 'tranny' word and are like "I'm a tranny, got a problem with that because I will cut your face if I do." But it's not a word I use willy-nilly.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:07 PM on January 9


Re: Fry, my criticism is that he sat there on a BBC show with a nationwide audience, laughing about and uncritically endorsing the myth of the deceptive trans woman out to trick straight cis men into 'gay' attraction and sex. That's a myth and fear which literally gets trans women murdered, especially trans women of colour. It's hardly that he didn't put a space in 'trans women' or used 'transgender' as a noun.

Point absolutely and sincerely taken.
posted by Sara C. at 10:10 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


I loved this bit in the Advocate article SO MUCH:

Why is it that only when describing trans people, others feel the need to treat us like we were born fully grown adults? Carmen Carrera wasn’t “born a man,” she was born a baby.
posted by desuetude at 10:16 PM on January 9 [18 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: it's not a word I use willy-nilly.

Yeah, I see what you did there.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:47 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Why is it that only when describing trans people, others feel the need to treat us like we were born fully grown adults? Carmen Carrera wasn’t “born a man,” she was born a baby.

YES YES THIS PLEASE YES THIS

feckless fecal fear mongering: it's not a word I use willy-nilly.

Yeah, I see what you did there.


ok so I get the joke but please believe me when I say it was unintended.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:50 PM on January 9


Sara C.,

We've told you why we feel the way we do about "trans person" vs. "transperson." Telling us that when we're talking about what we want to be called we're somehow not talking about what we want to be called, but instead simply talking about "hitting the spacebar," is pretty dismissive. But, oh, yeah, sure - our arcane orthography changed randomly on the first of the year and hoyland was snottily exploiting this fact to make everyone who hadn't caught up yet feel irritated. You caught us!

Actually this gets mentioned in pretty much every thread about trans people, usually quite politely! Maybe just be like "oh okay!" if you didn't know and move on! If you already did know maybe just sit there knowing it quietly to yourself! We don't particularly need you to tell us how you feel about it all the time! We already know, I promise!
posted by Corinth at 10:51 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


I did not read Joe in Australia's post as pointing out a penis joke, I read it as pointing out the stupidity of using a slur twice in one post about how little you use a slur.
posted by Corinth at 10:53 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure it's not a slur when my friends say "I'm a tranny" but hey if you want to judge stuff you have no idea about whatsoever who am I to disagree?

Pretty sure I made it clear I only use words with people who I know explicitly those words are okay with but if you want to evaluate relationships you have not one clue about you're more than welcome to do so.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:04 PM on January 9


I think Sara C and feckless fecal fear mongering have good points about how transgender is not exactly dirt common to most of the population. I have known a whopping two transgender (my apologies if I just pissed off everyone in this thread for saying it like that, which I might have done even though I am attempting to do exactly what GLAAD said to) in my life and I live in a little liberal enclave. My mom knows a third in my hometown. That's about it. I'd probably know more if I lived in SF, I'd probably know none at all if I lived in most other places. This is still relatively rare for most of us shitty uncomprehending cispeople to be learning about. There's growing pains out the wazoo going on as to how exactly we are supposed to behave correctly.

This is not to say that asking about everyone's crotches is OK (more like, TMI and I don't really want to know the details--also these days you can look up how it's done online if you want to know), or that I'm defending Katie Couric because I don't give a shit about her in general. But it kind of feels like a damn land mine trying to figure out how to talk about it when we're cis idiots who don't understand and can't ever understand.

But...we're working on it, okay? The evil dominant cisgendered population is not all filled with bigots, but even those of us who are more okay or flat out okay with things can still fuck up and make you mad. I'm doing it right now because I'm saying anything, even though I don't mean to hurt people's feelings or metaphorically kick you all in the crotches. Because no matter how cool and froody I am with you being whatever the hell gender you want, it's a weird adjustment sort of thing that I am still learning the language of, literally. And the stuff that sounded okay to me--like saying "transgendered," which I did not know before this week was BAD BAD BAD and I thought that was just the grammar--well, fuck, I don't know. For example, this week's Dan Savage column (and now I'm gonna get in trouble for mentioning him in a trans thread) mentions someone who really pissed off someone else for saying the wrong word, even though as far as I can tell, the OP didn't want to offend her at all.

*sigh*

I don't know where I am going with this, but I need to back out of this thread before I choke on my own knees since I ran out of feet.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:09 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


But it kind of feels like a damn land mine trying to figure out how to talk about it when we're cis idiots who don't understand and can't ever understand.

But...we're working on it, okay?


I went through this reaction (that you're implying) with queer stuff. And so what I am saying is aimed at trans people:

We can understand. Many of us want to, even if we don't get it yet.

Don't alienate us, please? We're humans like you, and we want to make sure all humans get treated the same. I understand what it's like to be 'acquiesce to whatever we say or be branded a BIGOT!' and be all activisty and angry. All of us who rail against (straight) (white) (male) (heteronormativity) know what that's like.

The reality is, most people are decent folks. And many, many of us are with you. Let us in, and let us be on your side, even if we make the occasional mistake. Or even frequent mistakes. Errors made in the aim of doing the Right Thing are forgivable, I hope? When we're trying to say "We want things to be better and the way to make things better for everyone is to make things better for specific people and that means not letting anything that makes things worse for you pass."

Again, I want to be super clear, I know exactly what it's like to be in the "I am X and you are not-X and you will never understand me" camp. I have been there. I have been that (cis)guy. And when I look back on it, I wither with embarrassment at what a goddamn asshole I was to people who I know, now, were on my side.

We want you to be treated like human beings. We want 'you' to not be a 'you' anymore, we want you to be an 'us.' Because we're all in this shit together. End of story.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:30 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


jenfullmoon, the only reason this thread even sounds mean now is because a trans person noted preferred terminology and cis people reacted badly to it, so now we have to have to usual stupid semantics discussion and it will end with people complaining about the word "cis." There is no minefield here. Saying "transgendered" isn't "BAD BAD BAD" - we just might point out that we prefer "transgender" as an adjective. You can understand that, if you want to, cis or not!

feckless, I'm not judging you? But "my ____ friend uses an anti-____ slur" isn't really novel or throwing a wrench into anything. I simply don't think the vehicle justified the usage.
posted by Corinth at 11:33 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


Personally, I very much appreciate the notes on usage in discussion. I think it's extremely helpful within the context of a conversation, because that way I can see examples of usage as it happens which makes it much easier for me to understand and grasp, as opposed to looking up guidelines that may or may not even be the preferred standard, and that don't necessarily provide the most helpful context. For me it's a bit like the difference between reading a recipe, and standing there with someone (a friend!) showing me how to cook the dish.

So, yeah, I appreciate this and much more that I've learned from our members. I kind of hate to see the conversation sticking there, with people taking offense on all sides.
posted by taz at 11:39 PM on January 9 [6 favorites]


nobody is taking offense from "transperson" or "transgendered"

hoyland said: "PSA (for everyone): Spaces in 'trans woman', 'trans people' and so on, please. Also 'transgender' (as an adjective only!) rather than 'transgendered'."

and then other people started doing their own thing complaining out of nowhere about how trans people are apparently impatient and mean about terminology and not seeing the forest for the trees because they're too high up in the vampire castle, and yeah, i guess i'm taking offense at that, because if hoyland's note is "snotty" and "irritating" then we really can't do any baseline educating at all without being labeled shrill and irrational so i guess we're just supposed to sit here and read what the cis people have to say about the transgendered transpeople and that's super frustrating
posted by Corinth at 11:50 PM on January 9 [14 favorites]


so now we have to have to usual stupid semantics discussion and it will end with people complaining about the word "cis."

I don't see a 'stupid semantics discussion' here. If anything, the only thing I see here is me saying "maybe let's not worry so much about semantics and deal with the day to day shit, but I'm not trans so if the consensus is to worry about semantics I am on your side."

feckless, I'm not judging you? But "my ____ friend uses an anti-____ slur" isn't really novel or throwing a wrench into anything. I simply don't think the vehicle justified the usage.

You kind of leaped over the important part there. What I was actually saying is "My trans friend calls herself a tranny, and is explicitly okay with me using that word with her," and she is not a unique snowflake, so maybe a blanket prohibition on a certain word may be overrreaching. More to the point, calling it a slur when someone with whom I am in almost-daily contact doesn't consider it a slur, maybe you shouldn't be stepping on her?

Some people can call me a faggot. 90%+ of those people are queer. Not all of them. I'm not trans. My friend is. She is fine with 'tranny' from some people. I am one of those people, explicitly said within a long conversation about gender issues. Don't tell me I'm casting a slur when, in a very specific context, I am not. Okay? I'm not telling you how to live your experience, don't tell me how to live mine when you have not the slightest idea what you are talking about w/r/t my friends.

In summary, "my ____ friend uses an anti-__slur" when that friend is the person who would be subjected to that slur is a really, really unfair read on the situation.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:50 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


[Okay, mod hat ON – we will not have arguments about the right to use "tranny"; on this site, it's not okay, period.]
posted by taz at 11:56 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Sorry taz. I didn't mean to have that argument. I was only trying, and probably did it very fucking badly, to say that there are few universal constants in this arena.

I am truly sorry if that caused offence to anyone.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:02 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Ugh this is what I hate with online discussion, rereading what I wrote makes me sound like a dick.

I promise you I am not being a dick here, I am acting in good faith.

I'm on the trans side. I am on Team Trans. I am in favour of anything that sounds like "Trans people are people, that's the important part, so let's you know actually treat them like people."

I am very sorry if anything I said came across in a way that contradicts that statement.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:08 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


To abandon the forests/trees metaphor, because I think I'm at risk of ending up actually talking about trees; what I'm getting at is that I think precision around terminology, and presenting a sort of general message of 'trans people are humans who deserve a basic level of respect', aren't two discrete options or tacks to take, and are in fact mutually essential. I worry that the painting of language concerns as trivial, petty, as driven by all sorts of other imaginary character flaws has materially set us back.

Pulling out a purely anecdotal example, I knew a cis guy a while ago who was fine with the idea that trans women were women, and deserved to be treated the same and the rates of murder and assault were awful and so on.

But this dude sort of arrived in my social circle blithely using the word trap, which obviously is a fucked up thing to call someone and plays back into that whole myth-of-the-deceptive-trans-woman crap I mentioned. And as I said to this person, I'm not convinced the good done by one individual 'getting it' in terms of respecting the basic nature and humanity of trans women, and being polite in person and not screaming at people in the street or threatening murder on the internet, good as those things are, comes anywhere near outweighing the practical harm in said person walking around using language that reinforces and encourages real threat and damage.

Obviously not every term used by cis allies who aren't entirely up to date with language is that extreme, but many are points on the same line. And yeah, absolutely, there are preferred terms which probably don't have a lot of impact either way, as everywhere (I mean, the level of preferred terminology presented as 'x construction annoys me' by mefites in almost every thread on any subject, for example) but it's a question of asking allies to treat language as materially rather than emotionally important, to think and listen to reasoning about that stuff rather than dismissing it all as pointless hair-splittage. I don't know whether that can really be a distinct thing.
posted by emmtee at 12:22 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


I think precision around terminology, and presenting a sort of general message of 'trans people are humans who deserve a basic level of respect', aren't two discrete options or tacks to take, and are in fact mutually essential.

I'm not saying they're not. I'm saying that 'trans people are humans who deserve a basic level of respect' is the much more important thing to be going for, and nomenclatural precision is a secondary consideration. (And again, if the trans community has another opnion who the fuck am I to say otherwise?)

I mean, if you had to pick one, which would you prefer? People who treat you like a human being, or people who grudgingly use the right words without understanding why? I don't know about you but as a queer man I'd take the first in a heartbeat because the rest can be taught. Maybe the experience is different for trans people, and if so I'd love to know why so I can pull my oar in the same direction as you.

But this dude sort of arrived in my social circle blithely using the word trap,

yeah that is not fucking okay at all anywhere ever.

but it's a question of asking allies to treat language as materially rather than emotionally important

I promise you I understand the importance. I am talking about stuff that split chunks of the queer community in the 80s and 90s (and, let's be honest, the POC community 20-30 years earlier): strategic outrage, not just being (justifiably and righteously) upset about everything. Picking battles is what I am talking about here; maybe (and yet again I want to say if the trans community disagrees please tell me where and how to help) it would be more useful in the long run to be concerned about acceptance first before talking about problematic usage of language which, in the specific case we are talking about (trans (wo)man vs trans(wo)man) is not the hugest of deals when there are more day to day things we can be fixing together.

Really, really want to be clear here: I am interested in no solutions unless they include explicitly "Trans people are people period and if you have a problem with that you have a problem with humanity, and if you have a problem with humanity I don't want to know you unless you are willing to be educated."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:40 AM on January 10


[feckless fecal fear mongering, basically at this point you are making this thread all about you, and you need to step back.]
posted by taz at 12:46 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Wow, this was just wonderful. How often on national TV do you see someone on any issue at all pointedly but generously educate another person without belittling them on a topic that they have significant emotional involvement in? The gentle but firm solidarity Cox gave Carrera was also something you don't see modeled well very often in the media.
posted by threeants at 12:51 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Sorry, taz. Disengaged.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:54 AM on January 10


I think it's the whole trans- and cis- are prefixes issue, which is kind of a hole in the argument in favour of a space

They are prefixes, but not for the words 'man', 'woman' or 'person' - they're prefixes for 'gender' usually. So to say cisman or transperson makes no sense - leaving out that space makes it seem like the prefixes are binding to 'man' and 'person' respectively. They're not - it's just a shorthand, where 'trans' is short for 'transgender' (or 'transsexual' or 'transwhateverthefuckyoulike') and leaving in the space prevents creating the issue of attaching the prefix to the wrong word.

So: "trans woman" or "cis person" not "transwoman" or "cisperson".

But this dude sort of arrived in my social circle blithely using the word trap, which obviously is a fucked up thing to call someone and plays back into that whole myth-of-the-deceptive-trans-woman crap I mentioned. And as I said to this person, I'm not convinced the good done by one individual 'getting it' in terms of respecting the basic nature and humanity of trans women, and being polite in person and not screaming at people in the street or threatening murder on the internet, good as those things are, comes anywhere near outweighing the practical harm in said person walking around using language that reinforces and encourages real threat and damage.

Yeah, if someone were to ever actually call me a trap to my face, I would not want to be in their shoes. I get annoyed enough with people using it to describe themselves (while fully recognising that that is indeed their right).
posted by Dysk at 1:36 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Picking battles is what I am talking about here; maybe (and yet again I want to say if the trans community disagrees please tell me where and how to help) it would be more useful in the long run to be concerned about acceptance first before talking about problematic usage of language which, in the specific case we are talking about (trans (wo)man vs trans(wo)man) is not the hugest of deals when there are more day to day things we can be fixing together.

I think the thing is is that we (people involved in trans-related activism, I guess) don't want language to be the issue, at least not when we're talking about spaces or asterisks or 'should we say trans or gender non-conforming here'. But part of the struggle of being a good ally (or a good activist generally) is telling yourself that being prodded on language is not about you--it's generally going to be about modeling language to people who don't have the foggiest idea about trans issues or the compromise at the end of some long drawn-out battle in the community. In whatever context, we're entitled to expect more from allies than simply showing up and deciding that prodding people on language is distracting from the mission (or whatever), is saying showing up is good enough.

For example, I don't really use 'cis', but 'non-trans' for various considered and not-so-considered (laziness) reasons. I do try to use 'cis' on Metafilter (and I say 'cis privilege' generally) because this is somewhere where modeling appropriate language is still really important and I don't want to muddy the waters. I've yet to have someone pull me up on 'non-trans' and tell me to use 'cis', but it'll happen sooner or later, and I know it'll be a struggle for me to handle that gracefully. But when it happens, the last thing I ought to do is derail whatever discussion is actually happening to defend my use of 'non-trans'.

All that said, I think there's a case to be made for teaching people about these sorts of language issues at the trans 101 stage being important. (Though what does 'concerned about acceptance first' even mean?) I can think of a few specific instances on Metafilter where someone has said "Okay, please be patient, I'm about to ask a dumb and probably offensive question" and it has gone really quite well. Sometimes that person hasn't really had the vocabulary to ask their question. In those situations, explaining that we like to put a space in 'trans [noun]' because it emphasises that trans people are [noun], not some weird variation on [noun], is driving home that message but is also hopefully giving that person vocabulary and confidence in that vocabulary. (I think this is particularly true when it comes to 'trans man' and 'trans woman'--a lot of the vocabulary fumbling is around how to refer to a trans person. People can figure out not to say 'tranny' and maybe not 'a trans', but have no idea what to use. That and the word 'transition' seem like the big ones at the moment.)
posted by hoyland at 6:20 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]


Wow, this was just wonderful. How often on national TV do you see someone on any issue at all pointedly but generously educate another person without belittling them on a topic that they have significant emotional involvement in? The gentle but firm solidarity Cox gave Carrera was also something you don't see modeled well very often in the media.

Yeah, it was so calm and civil that there's a part of me that really wants to believe that Couric's asking the question was deliberately staged, to give Carrera and Cox the opportunity to discuss not andwering it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:35 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


i didn't at all think that hoyland was being passive aggressive or snotty. it reads really straight forward to me as a cis person. i lived in texas and knew a bunch of trans people (and it wasn't even austin, it was plano, hardly a liberal hive). i'm also a mefite, so now i get to know a bunch more. maybe in a parallel universe where this conversation is being held at gop rally, there might have been glossing over more problematic things to get to the meat of the issue - but again, this is metafilter where i hope trans people can speak freely and let allies know their preferences without being taken to task and accused of keeping allies out of the discussion. i also hope this can happen without anyone trying to defend one of the worst slurs against trans people in a sort of "the n word is used in rap and i have black friend who uses it so i'm just going to keep saying it over and over and over again in a thread that's already fraught." hopes for the future, maybe...
posted by nadawi at 6:37 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


[A few comments removed; corb, we're not going around on yet another But I Have A Contrary Opinion On This Thing I Have No Stake In circuit with you on this.]
posted by cortex at 7:26 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


I think something needed to come out of that deletion, which is: the trans people here on MeFi prefer that space; trans foo, not transfoo. It has semantic merits, but it is also a local preference.

Please just honor it here, simple as that.

You've now been asked nicely.
posted by bleep-blop at 7:45 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


MetaTalk.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:27 AM on January 10


is there bad blood between rupaul and carmen carrera? i found it kind of odd that there was no mention of this story on rupaul's twitter feed.
posted by nadawi at 8:34 AM on January 10


As soon as I read that comment I heard, very clearly and distinctly in my head, the jangling of spurs and classic Western gunslinger high noon showdown music.
posted by elizardbits at 8:58 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I mean I hope it's not the case but if it is I am prepared with relevant mental imagery.
posted by elizardbits at 9:00 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


is there bad blood between rupaul and carmen carrera? i found it kind of odd that there was no mention of this story on rupaul's twitter feed.

bleepbloop ACTIVATE SOCIAL MEDIA UBIQUITY PHASE 6.8: not mentioning someone on twitter now initiates a beef
posted by threeants at 10:54 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


Shit, shit

I've been making it look like I have a beef with the entire planet

BRB gotta compose 7 billion tweets real quick
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:04 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


bleepbloop ACTIVATE SOCIAL MEDIA UBIQUITY PHASE 6.8: not mentioning someone on twitter now initiates a beef

what? that's not what i was saying at all. i was merely asking anyone who are more up on their drag race gossip if there was some sort of something between carrera and rupaul - not that the lack of mentioning is evidence of a beef. i know there have been other former castmates who have fights with each other and i seem to remember at least one has not nice thing to say about rupaul. this was a huge story and with all the congratulations coming out for carrera and fox, and with the amount that rupaul tweets, i found it strange that rupaul didn't tweet something congratulatory.

i guess i should ask ontd or twop or twitter this question instead - i just know a lot of mefties are drag race fans.
posted by nadawi at 12:24 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I wasn't indicting you, just cutting up.
posted by threeants at 12:27 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


i seem to remember at least one has not nice thing to say about rupaul

I can only imagine Ru-Ru has changed in the last fifteen years, but... I guess all I'll say is that, according to people I knew at the time who had worked with her, the public persona was--back then at least--slightly different than the backstage reality. I would be astonished if none of the queens on the show had a problem with her.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:39 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I don't think there's a beef, nadawi. RuPaul retweeted stories about Carmen's aspiring VS campaign, has complimented her modeling shoots, and has done promo work with Carmen post-transition as recently as November.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:14 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


(I gleaned that from searching Twitter, I have not been stalking everyone that has ever been on Drag Race on the interwebs in anticipation of Season 6 much)
posted by en forme de poire at 4:15 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


oh awesome! i really need to watch that show. too busy with celebrity big brother and rewatching veronica mars at the minute, but maybe after that...

should i just start on season 1?
posted by nadawi at 7:40 PM on January 10


I get frustrated by watching drag race partly because I feel like it sets up an unfair expectation, like I have to compete against that. I know it's stupid, welcome to womanhood and all that, but when I watch that show with my friends they seriously expect me to be like those contestants, and I'm all "no, I just want to wear a cute outfit like yours, even though cap sleeves totally reinforce my wide shoulders..."
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:03 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


Annika, there's an interesting moment from Season 5 where (spoiler alert, but it's in the first couple of episodes) Monica Beverly-Hillz comes out as transgender on the main stage (in typical reality show dramatic fashion). Later backstage, though, she makes the distinction that (not quite exact quote?) "trans is about who I am, drag is about what I do"... teachable moment for your friends maybe?

Drag draws on very particular types of femininity - glam, camp, pageant, etc., and I think the show mostly does a pretty okay job of differentiating this kind of "draggy", over-the-top style of feminine performance from femininity at large. (Not that the show is totally unproblematic, of course, but that's my two cents.)

nadawi, Season 1 is actually kind of an outlier because the production is kind of different and more low-budget (holy Vaseline on the lens, Ru) and it's a much shorter season. But there are some amazing talents on it, like Nina Flowers, Ongina, Tammie Brown, and Bebe. The other seasons each have lots to recommend them, depending on your preferences (Jinkx's Little Edie impression in the Snatch Game episode of S5 is brilliant, for a start).
posted by en forme de poire at 8:58 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I did not read Joe in Australia's post as pointing out a penis joke,

I have a very low sense of humor. I'm probably more likely to make a penis joke than to make a thoughtful comment about the appropriate use of exclusionary language. Or most things, actually.

For what it's worth (which I recognise in this context is very little) I think "trans man" is more comprehensible than "transman" because adjectives in English are generally separate from the noun. The pronunciation is clearer, too. Those considerations shouldn't trump people's preferred term for self-identification if there were a conflict, but I like things to be regular and I'm glad that they agree.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:47 AM on January 11


Couric responds...sort of
posted by cheerwine at 12:56 PM on January 11


When dignity is near the bottom on the list of concerns, the notion of someone electing to have their genitals permanently altered is too salacious for a TV journalist to resist.

Really? Because I don't recall interviews constantly asking cis dudes if they're circumcised.
posted by NoraReed at 11:46 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Couric responds...sort of

I could feel my IQ leaking away by the end of that segment, but overall I am pleased that Couric aired her dumbass question in the first place, because that gave Laverne Cox an opportunity to be dignified and reasonable. And I'm glad that Couric didn't bury the issue more than a bit in her sort of apology.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:56 PM on January 11


CeCe McDonald, the woman about whom Cox is making a documentary, was released from prison today. (Background on McDonald's situation.)
posted by Corinth at 10:40 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]


YAY! Wow! Thanks for posting that, Corinth!
posted by goofyfoot at 7:43 PM on January 13


I'm really glad she's out.
posted by NoraReed at 4:04 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Laverne Cox has announced she's writing a memoir.
posted by Corinth at 6:36 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Extending this chain of related news (tell me to stop if I should stop), there are happenings in the cases of two other transgender prisoners:

A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 in favor of Michelle Kosilek, affirming her right to bottom surgery.

Ophelia De'Lonta, another trans woman who was suing for access to bottom surgery, has been granted parole after 34 years of her 73-year robbery sentence.
posted by Corinth at 12:24 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


please don't stop!
posted by nadawi at 6:30 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


CeCe McDonald with Laverne Cox on Melissa Harris-Perry.
posted by Corinth at 9:27 PM on January 19 [1 favorite]


Laverne Cox gave the opening plenary at NGLTF's Creating Change conference last night.

(Everyone I know who's there says it was amazing; I'm going to watch it myself shortly.)
posted by rtha at 4:24 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]


Ha, I was slow reading my RSS feeds today and rtha beat me to it! Autostraddle has some context for people who can't watch videos right away.
posted by Corinth at 8:24 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


Meant to include this pull quote:
“I’ve always been like, ‘Love myself? How the heck am I supposed to do that?’ …I believe, now, I’m starting to understand a little bit of what it means. I don’t internalize all the negative things and negative stereotypes that people have of trans women of color. I don’t do that number on myself anymore… I am starting to believe that in the deepest core of myself that I am beautiful, I am smart, I am amazing.”
It literally makes me cry in the best way to have someone like her leading the charge for us. I wish I had gone!
posted by Corinth at 8:32 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]


The state of Massachusetts is appealing the latest court ruling requiring them to provide bottom surgery for Michelle Kosilek. To date, the state has spent well over a million dollars attempting to prevent a trans woman from receiving a medically necessary procedure that typically costs between $20,000 and $40,000.


Do not read the comments.
posted by Corinth at 6:18 PM on February 1


> To date, the state has spent well over a million dollars attempting to prevent a trans woman from receiving a medically necessary procedure that typically costs between $20,000 and $40,000.

The cost of opposition versus the surgery absolutely strikes me as horrendously ludicrous. Incarcerating a trans woman in a men's prison strikes me as unambiguously cruel. But I pause at the surgery being "medically necessary..." Not because I want to argue against it being a medical necessity, or even think that I have the right to disagree! I just would like to understand better without judgement, in light of the earlier issue raised by this FPP about the erroneous assumption that transition is defined by surgery.

Has it been deemed that surgery is literally necessary for her mental health, personally? Is it to do with the issue of being incarcerated in a women's prison with male genitalia? The latter only occurred to me because of the following quote from the article (which confuses me because surely there are women who are in that prison for killing other women.)

The state had argued before Wolf that the sex change would pose security problems because, among other things, the prison system would have to either place Kosilek as a woman in a men’s prison or as a former man who had killed his wife in a women’s prison.

Kudos to Boston.com for using female pronouns and explaining why in an unembarrassed footnote, by the way.
posted by desuetude at 11:35 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


There are probably lots of female murderers in prison, and I suspect that as a trans woman Kosilek is safer in a women's prison than in a men's prison, surgery or no surgery. I mean, the state's arguing that it can't keep her safe in prison, right? So it has three options: release her; confine her among (allegedly) angry women; or confine her among a male population in which situational homosexual rape is notoriously common.

The correct answer is to fix the prison system, of course, but apparently that's not an option.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:26 AM on February 2


desuetude: " I just would like to understand better without judgement, in light of the earlier issue raised by this FPP about the erroneous assumption that transition is defined by surgery.

Has it been deemed that surgery is literally necessary for her mental health, personally?
"

My vague understanding of this case is that surgery is necessary for Kosilek in that sense. Because the state has an obligation to provide her with adequate medical care, the words 'medical necessity' are going to show up a lot in these sorts of cases. It's easiest to think of it as a term of art than trying to parse out how necessary X is for trans people in general. I believe 'medical necessity' is the same standard your claims to your health insurance company have to meet before they'll pay. It's just that trans people* are not given the benefit of the doubt that your last claim to insurance was given.

*Those with insurance that covers transition-related care. I live in a state where it's fairly common to have coverage, so I tend to speak as if that's much more likely than it is in generally.
posted by hoyland at 6:40 AM on February 2


In fact, the state of Illinois would like to explain what medical necessity means. (In particular, it doesn't mean 'you're going to die otherwise'.)
posted by hoyland at 6:42 AM on February 2


I do not have the energy to find the exact phrases that you will find convincing, but both the AMA and APA agree that surgery can be medically necessary for trans people with serious dysphoria.

Here's the APA's resolution (PDF), which includes:
Whereas, Health experts in GID, including WPATH, have rejected the myth that such treatments are “cosmetic” or “experimental” and have recognized that these treatments can provide safe and effective treatment for a serious health condition;
Also, many public and private entities cover surgery in their insurance programs, which should help demonstrate that asking the state to meet its obligations in these cases is not extraordinary (especially since prisoners are not allowed to choose their own coverage). You can see the PDF at the top of this HRC resource page for a list major companies that include such benefits. Trans people have a medical condition that is effectively treated by these procedures (among other things).

If you're interested, the HRC also has a detailed document intended for advocating for trans-exclusive employer plans to become trans-inclusive with detailed case studies showing that it can be done with either no or negligible (as in, pennies) premium increases. It should be somewhere reachable from that resource page.

desuetude: "Has it been deemed that surgery is literally necessary for her mental health, personally?"

Yes.

Five of Kosilek's doctors have said that the surgery is necessary for her. (She has attempted suicide and self-castration multiple times while in prison, if that helps paint you a picture.) If I remember correctly a judge even rebuked the state for specifically looking for an anti-trans "expert" to bring in to say the opposite.

There are plenty of articles you can scare up with Google. This crappy New Republic piece from last October has more information, if you just want to be linked to one of them. (I'm sure I linked it in whatever trans thread we had going on at the time, as well.)
In fact, the MDOC would go on to fire, replace, or simply ignore five specialists who concluded that Kosilek should undergo SRS. A new trial began in May of 2006. Kosilek testified in June of that year that she would prefer dying to inhabiting the body of a man for the rest of her life. “I would not want to continue existing like this,” she said. The psychiatrists who had examined her concluded that sexual-reassignment surgery would be “curative” for her G.D., as it is for the majority of the transgender people for whom it’s prescribed. If she were not offered SRS, they said, she would likely keep trying to kill herself until she succeeded.

...

Republican Senator Scott Brown issued a statement condemning the judge’s order, as did his Democratic opponent Elizabeth Warren, who chose her words carefully: “I have to say, I don’t think it’s a good use of taxpayer dollars.” ... Even Barney Frank—who, as The Advocate observed in an angry op-ed, might have seemed, as a gay man, to be Kosilek’s natural ally—denounced the decision. “I think some of the LGBT advocates say, ‘Oh, there have got to be special rules for people who are transgender,’” he told me. “Alleviating at public expense the anguish of a murderer is not something I want to do.”

...

“It doesn’t bother me if she wants to commit suicide,” says Barney Frank. “What’s the loss to society?
You don't even need to get to the comment section before the "I'm a super progressive person and some of my best friends are gay but..." people start the hate machine. Barney Frank wants this trans woman to commit suicide. Elizabeth Warren would rather spend a fortune being transphobic than a penny being an educated, decent human being. These are our progressive heroes? Hope and fucking change, right?

(Do not read the comment section. Never read the comment sections.)



I can't stop myself from reading the comment sections.
posted by Corinth at 10:09 AM on February 2


Corinth: "“It doesn’t bother me if she wants to commit suicide,” says Barney Frank. “What’s the loss to society?"

Seriously disappointed in his humanity and decency at this point. Fuck.
posted by Lexica at 11:11 AM on February 2


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